"End-of-life decisions should not be made at the end of life." - Unknown
Many of us are as unprepared for death as we are for life’s most important milestones. The idea of a ‘Peace of Mind Portfolio’ or an in-case-of-death folder might seem morbid, and understandably so. But death is inevitable and having our affairs in order is one way we can demonstrate our love for the people we leave behind after our passing.
Arguably, everyone should have an in-case-of-death folder but as we get older, it becomes crucial to have important information and documents organised and compiled in one place. But where do you start?
How to start the conversation about an end-of-life folder
Bringing up the topic of an in case of death folder with an Elderly loved one can be sensitive, and it's important to approach it with empathy and understanding. Whether you call it an end-of-life folder, a life transition file or a personal affairs binder is up to the person concerned. What’s important is that it resonates with the person concerned and reflect the purpose and significance of the contents of the folder. Here are some tips to help initiate a productive conversation:
Choose an appropriate time and setting
Find a quiet and comfortable environment where you can have a private conversation without interruptions. It's best to choose a time when everyone is relaxed and not distracted by other pressing matters.
Explain the Purpose
Clarify the purpose of an "in case of death" folder, emphasizing that it is not meant to be morbid, but rather a practical way to assist their loved ones in handling important matters when the time comes. Emphasise that having a folder in place can provide peace of mind that their wishes are known and respected. Share examples of how it can help streamline affairs, protect their interests, and ease the burden on family members during a challenging time.
Be mindful of their feelings
Understand that discussing end-of-life matters can bring up a range of emotions, including fear or discomfort. Be patient and attentive, allowing your elderly loved one to express their thoughts, concerns, and wishes. Reassure them that this conversation is about planning and preparedness, and that their input and preferences are valuable.
Offer to help
Extend your support in helping them assemble the necessary documents and information for the folder. Offer to accompany them to appointments with professionals, such as an estate planning attorney or financial advisor, if needed.
It's important to respect your elderly loved one's autonomy and choices. If they are initially hesitant or unwilling to discuss the topic or create a folder, don't force the issue. Reiterate that you're there to support them whenever they feel ready.
What to include in an end-of-life folder?
The specific contents of an end-of-life folder will vary from person to person. It’s also important to note that even if you or the loved one in question doesn’t have an estate per se, it’s still essential to create a folder and keep it up to date. An end-of-life folder is not just a record of assets or inheritance but a comprehensive collection of legal documents as well as your wishes and preferences.
Download our checklist for a comprehensive guide as to what to include in your end-of-life planning folder.
Who can you trust with your end-of-life folder?
It goes without saying that you need to choose individuals or professionals that you trust. But there are a few more criteria that can help you make the right choice:
Family, friends or professionals who have experience and expertise in the relevant areas.
People who can respect your wishes and maintain confidentiality.
Individuals that you’ve asked or discussed the idea with and determined that they are willing to help you collect and maintain the documentation you need.
Here are some individuals to consider when choosing a custodian for your end-of-life folder:
Trusted family members, such as adult children or siblings, can be a good choice for individuals to help you collate and keep important information.
An Estate Planning Attorney
Consulting with an estate planning attorney is highly recommended, especially when it comes to creating or updating legal documents such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. An attorney can guide you through the process, ensure legal compliance, and provide expert advice based on your specific circumstances.
A Financial Advisor or Accountant
If you work with a financial advisor or accountant, they can help you compile financial information, review your assets and liabilities, and ensure all relevant financial documents are included in the folder.
A Trust Officer
If you have a trust in place, the trust officer at your financial institution can assist in gathering trust-related documents and providing guidance on what should be included in the folder.
A Care Manager
A care manager can offer valuable assistance to elderly individuals by helping coordinate various aspects of their care and providing guidance on end-of-life planning. They can assist in organizing the folder and ensuring all necessary information is included.
In most cases, it’s a good idea to have a small ‘team’ of a couple of people – a combination of both family and professionals – to help you collect and store information. This is also helpful should someone you’ve chosen pass away unexpectedly or be unavailable for any reason. Make sure that whomever you choose knows the location of the folder and its contents help them navigate your affairs according to your wishes.
"The end of life deserves as much beauty, care and respect as the beginning." - Anonymous